Chibimagic's Weblog

Archive for March 2010

The iPhone browser is the best mobile browser in existence today. It’s got pinch to zoom, double tap to zoom, single-direction scroll locking. Here are some improvements that would make it even better:

Landscape keyboard for JavaScript prompts. MobileSafari has a landscape keyboard for entering URLs and in text fields, but if you get a JavaScript call to prompt(), you have to enter it in portrait mode. JavaScript bookmarklets are the best way of accessing common queries without loading a full web page, like for Wikipedia. But to use them on the iPhone, you’re limited to the tiny portrait keyboard.

Open in background tabs. The whole tap and hold to get an extended menu has been around since the beginning. More recently, “open in new window” has been added to the list. But with the slowness and intermittentness of Internet access that often comes with the iPhone, being able to load the next page in the background while reading the current one would be a godsend. It goes against Apple’s whole background loading philosophy, and wouldn’t quite work due to the way memory is handled on the iPhone, but with more RAM, it would make the Safari experience so much better.

Explicit directional scroll locking. MobileSafari already has some scroll locking. If you start scrolling up or down, and then move your finger side to side without lifting your finger, it will continue to only scroll up or down. The reverse is true if you start scrolling side to side. But if you start scrolling at an angle, you can scroll in every direction. This is a great usability compromise. However, if you’re holding the phone in one hand and scrolling with your thumb, it’s very hard to start your scroll in a single direction. If there were an explicit trigger, either via gesture or button, to turn on scroll directional lock, we wouldn’t have to worry about this. GoodReader does a great job of this.

Rotational locking. The whole auto rotation thing is great and cool to demo, but sometimes it just gets in the way. If I want to read in bed lying on my side, I have to hold the phone upside down so that it locks in landscape mode (Safari doesn’t do upside down portrait mode). But it would be nice to be able to use portrait mode in bed.

Full screen-ier full screen mode. The top URL bar disappears when scrolling down, but the bottom toolbar and top status bar never go away. The iPhone screen is small enough as it is; I don’t need more chrome getting in my way. Again, GoodReader does an excellent job of this. The chrome appears and disappears with a tap, leaving your screen 100% content.

So there you have it. Five things that would make the iPhone browser even more amazing.

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